The French state auditor has raised fresh doubts about plans to build the world’s most expensive nuclear power plant in Somerset by urging EDF, the energy company, to ask “serious questions” before going ahead. The Cour des Comptes rang alarm bells over the complexity of both funding and carrying out the £18 billion project at Hinkley Point. It urged Paris and EDF, which is 85 per cent owned by the French state, to think hard about whether it should proceed, citing “financial stress”. The warning came as China, which is paying for a third of the power station, expressed anger over the delays to the project. The Times has learnt that Chinese officials demanded a meeting at the French embassy in Beijing to discuss the situation. The row is embarrassing for President Xi, who witnessed the signing of the deal during his state visit to Britain last year. China fears that the cancellation of the project would threaten its ambitions to export more technology to the West. One industry executive in Beijing said: “They have been into the French embassy this week to express their irritation at delays far beyond expectations.” Yesterday, the Cour des Comptes – the equivalent of Britain’s National Audit Office, scrutinising the public accounts and providing an independent assessment – warned EDF that the project could suffer expensive delays. Similar projects in Finland and at Flamanville in France have run billions of euros over budget and are years behind schedule. Roger Witcomb, who has led an 18-month investigation into Britain’s energy market by the Competition and Markets Authority, told The Times he was concerne d that British officials involved in the negotiations had not fully considered the impact on consumers’ bills. Under the deal, electricity from the power station will be bought at £92.50 per megawatt hour for 35 years. The present market price is £33.
Times 11th March 2016 read more »
FT 10th March 2016 read more »
The auditor said EDF’s high debt and negative cash flow limit its capacity to invest abroad, especially in light of the huge sums needed to upgrade its ageing French nuclear fleet.
Reuters 10th March 2016 read more »
France’s top audit body has warned utility firm EDF that its investment in a project to build the UK’s first nuclear power plant in three decades is potentially risky. In a report assessing EDF’s financial performance, the Cour des Comptes urged the state-backed firm to carefully review its plans to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point at an estimated cost of £18bn (€23bn; $26bn). The energy company is reported to be struggling to raise the £12bn it needs to build the power plant, with French union officials calling for the final investment decision to be pushed back by three years. EDF’s share price has plummeted by half over the past year amid rising debt and falling electricity prices.
IB Times 11th March 2016 read more »
France’s top audit body has said the financing scheme for EDF’s $25.6billion project to build two nuclear plants in the UK could be potentially risky. The Cour des Comptes said returns on those investments have been systematically lower than those on its French nuclear fleet. The auditor also said both the company and the French state should take a look at the risk involved with the project. The report also analysed EDF’s agreement made in 2013 with the UK government but not its 2015 deal with the Chinese utility CGN to take a one-third stake. The report said the Hinkley Point project also raised serious questions about its possible impact on EDF.
Energy Voice 10th March 2016 read more »
When George Osborne, touring China in September, announced the UK’s commitment to a new power station at Hinkley Point, he intended it as a cornerstone of Britain’s drive for Chinese investment. No matter that, the following month, protesters inflated a giant white elephant near the site for a visit by Xi Jinping, China’s president. The costs and the technical uncertainty of Hinkley C should have been decisive in prompting ministers to find another way. The plans make a nonsense of Britain’s fitful attempts to give itself an energy policy. Instead they promise unnecessarily expensive energy for consumers and businesses. Worse, progressing with this design would be a lost chance to help along the evolution of nuclear power stations in many countries, not just Britain, as the world edges towards the next generation of cheaper, more efficient and safer nuclear power. Ministers say that if Hinkley C is not built, there is a risk of electricity shortages. The UK’s last coal-fired power stations close in 2025. That risk is real. But a better way to address it would be buy smaller nuclear stations of proven design or gas-fired ones, while waiting for new nuclear models to get established and for the volume of orders to push the price down. EDF’s discomfort offers that rarest of opportunities — an escape route with minimal embarrassment (and no costs to the UK from ending the contract). Mr Osborne, who has advertised his willingness to make U-turns “after listening”, should take it.
FT 10th March 2016 read more »
Letter Dr Paul Dorfman: What was to be the most expensive power plant on earth is now an enormously costly landscaping project, and all concerned are looking for an honourable way out. If old EDF reactors can carry on for a bit longer, then valuable time can be bought. And, predictably, EDF has just announced that it will extend the “life-span” of its nuclear reactor fleet in the UK. The only questions that remain are: who will deliver the coup de grâce, and where do we go now? Because designing and building new nuclear power stations is so expensive, oil prices are bottoming out and fossil fuels are passé and no longer offer strong returns, we have reached a tipping point. Energy needs to work as a whole system. For the sake of UK plc, we need to turn the page on a bad deal and a bad reactor. It takes political courage to reflect and change, but it is clearly in the national interest for the Treasury to sift new evidence and come to a responsible decision.
Times 10th March 2016 read more »
Letter Maf Smith, Deputy CEO, RenewableUK: Your leader “Nuclear Disaster” stated that the level of financial support envisaged for Hinkley C (£92.50 per megawatt hour in 2025) is similar to the level for onshore wind. This isn’t the case. Under the government’s system of competitive power auctions, all new onshore wind projects came out at between £79.23 and £82.50 per megawatt hour, and delivering before 2020. Renewables receive 15 years support in comparison with nuclear power’s 35 years.
Times 10th March 2016 read more »
FORMER Kingston MP Ed Davey has accused the Conservative Party of trying to shift blame onto him after plans to build an £18bn nuclear power plant he negotiated were widely criticised. Mr Davey was at the forefront of talks between the former coalition government and French utility company EDF to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset while Energy Secretary in 2013.
Kingston Guardian 11th March 2016 read more »
EU anti-trust regulators on Thursday cleared a partnership between French power company EDF and Chinese nuclear firm CGN to build nuclear power plants in Britain, including the controversial Hinkley Point project. Hinkley Point, which EDF will build in partnership with CGN, will be Britain’s first nuclear power plant in decades and one of the world’s most expensive, with a projected cost of GBP 18 billion (23.2 billion euros, $25.5 billion). “The Commission’s investigation found that competition in the wholesale supply of electricity in the UK will not be hindered by the transaction given the moderate market share of EDF, the very limited market shares of CGN in this market and the presence of other competitors,” the European Commission said in an email sent to AFP.
EU Business 10th March 2016 read more »
Reuters 10th March 2016 read more »
Ministers have been urged to commit to plans for a huge tidal energy lagoon to keep the lights on in the UK, amid mounting concerns about whether the Hinkley Point nuclear power station will ever get built. MPs and peers are applying pressure for the government to get behind the tidal power project, saying it is an essential “plan B” to ensure energy security. The Conservatives committed to the Swansea Bay tidal project in their Welsh election manifesto, but there are strong signs that government backing for the scheme is cooling due to the level of subsidies it would need. After it emerged there was still no legally binding contract for EDF and its Chinese partners to invest in Hinkley Point, Lynne Featherstone, a peer and former coalition minister, claimed the tidal scheme would last for longer than a nuclear station and ensure security of supply. She told the House of Lords: “The finance director of EDF has quit; the value of EDF shares is falling; and EDF does not have a legally binding contract with the Chinese. “If it does not proceed with Hinkley Point, what is the government’s plan B for the security of our energy supply in future years, given that the support for renewables industries has been completely undermined by the government and that there is still no commitment to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, which would provide energy for 120 years – three times as long as would a nuclear power station?”
Guardian 10th March 2016 read more »
MOLLY Scott Cato MEP, the Green Party’s economic speaker, has written to the Commission asking it to investigate whether a proposed rescue plan for Hinkley C nuclear power station is in breach of European state aid rules. At a Franco-British summit last week, David Cameron and Francois Hollande released a joint statement re-committing to the building of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset, calling the project a ‘pillar in the two countries’ bilateral relationship’ and a key element of energy policy. However, last Sunday, the EDF finance director resigned and subsequently shares in the company plummeted. EDF, in which the French government have an 85% stake, is the company due to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point. It has been reported that, rather than taking dividends out of EDF the French government has been buying shares to recapitalise the company. Molly Scott Cato, with the support of five other MEPs, has put in a ‘priority’ request to the Commission, indicating it needs urgent answers. She is MEP for the South West constituency in which Hinkley would be built and is a long-time opponent of the project. She said: “The numbers for the Hinkley deal have never been made to stack up and the resignation of EDF’s finance director makes it clear that he refused to give in to political pressure and abandon the shareholders to whom he is actually responsible. It is clear that the commercial case for Hinkley is dead. We have now a political battle where the stakes for both the UK and France are just too high to admit failure. But we cannot let this override EU rules on state aid or fair competition”.
Molly Scott Cato MEP 10th March 2016 read more »
Charles Hendry told delegates at an event in London that the consequences for nuclear would be “very challenging” if EDF didn’t press ahead with the Hinkley project. “It doesn’t mean that other companies couldn’t come forward but if state owned entities couldn’t make it happen then what are the prospects for private companies,” he added. “If nuclear was found to be unaffordable to invest in the United Kingdom, there [would be] a whopping great big hole in energy policy.”
Utility Week 10th March 2016 read more »
THE former project director of EDF Hinkley Point C has hit back at claims he left the company as he did not ‘have full faith’ in the project, in a letter to the Times newspaper. Chris Bakken also states that abandoning Hinkley as a form of future electricity would jeopardise ‘jobs for the 25,000 people who will work on its construction.’
This is the West Country 10th March 2016 read more »
Horizon Nuclear Power still expects to start construction on its Wylfa power plant by 2018, despite the ongoing uncertainty over EDF’s Hinkley Point C. Horizon chief operating officer Alan Raymant told the Welsh affairs committee this week he was confident the firm would be able to stick to its timeline of construction at Wylfa, regardless of the high-profile doubts over EDF’s Somerset project.
Construction News 10th March 2016 read more »
The main claim used to justify nuclear is that it’s the only low carbon power source that can supply ‘reliable, baseload electricity’, writes Mark Diesendorf – unlike wind and solar. But not only can renewables supply baseload power, they can do something far more valuable: supply power flexibly according to demand. Now nuclear power really is redundant. Underlying this claim are three key assumptions. First, that baseload power is actually a good and necessary thing. In fact, what it really means is too much power when you don’t want it, and not enough when you do. What we need is flexible power (and flexible demand too) so that supply and demand can be matched instant by instant. The second assumption is that nuclear power is a reliable baseload supplier. In fact it’s no such thing. All nuclear power stations are subject to tripping out for safety reasons or technical faults. That means that a 3.2GW nuclear power station has to be matched by 3.2GW of expensive ‘spinning reserve’ that can be called in at a moments notice. The third is that the only way to supply baseload power is from baseload power stations, such as nuclear, coal and gas, designed to run flat-out all the time whether their power is actually needed or not. That’s wrong too.
Ecologist 10th March 2016 read more »
ON March 11th 2011 a tsunami engulfed Japan’s north-east coast, flooding towns, farmland and severely damaging the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Almost 19,000 people were killed by the tsunami, and a further 160,000 were evacuated after the power plant’s core leaked radiation into the sea and surrounding area in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. Five years on, Fukushima is still an exclusion zone and tens of thousands are stuck in temporary shelter. Japan shut down all but two of its 43 reactors over safety concerns. And other countries have recently sped up efforts to replace nuclear power with greener renewables.
Economist 10th March 2016 read more »
Seven top Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) experts have taken the brave rare step of publicly filing an independent finding warning that nearly every U.S. atomic reactor has a generic safety flaw that could spark a disaster. The warning mocks the latest industry push to keep America’s remaining 99 nukes from being shut by popular demand, by their essential unprofitability, or, more seriously, by the kind of engineering collapse against which the NRC experts are now warning.
Ecowatch 9th March 2016 read more »
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has held the first of a series of workshops to help regulators prepare for the global deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs). Participants from the Arab Atomic Energy Agency (AAEA) and Arab Network of Nuclear Regulators (ANNuR) took part in the workshop on safety and licensing requirements of SMRs, which was co-sponsored by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The workshop brought together regulatory authorities, operator companies, and other governmental organizations, working or expected to work towards the establishment of national safety and technical infrastructures for SMRs.
World Nuclear News 10th March 2016 read more »
Thousands labor around the clock to shut down the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Correspondent Aaron Sheldrick explains why, five years on, workers have only touched the tip of the iceberg.
Reuters 11th March 2016 read more »
In the chaotic two years after its name became forever associated with nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi power plant “resembled a field hospital”, according to the man who is now in charge of the most daunting task the nuclear industry has ever faced: removing hundreds of tons of melted fuel from the plant’s stricken reactors. “Now it really does feel like the situation is settling down and we can look ahead,” said Naohiro Masuda, head of decommissioning at the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). Five years after a magnitude nine earthquake triggered a giant tsunami that killed almost 19,000 people along the north-east coast of Japan and caused a triple meltdown at Fukushima, the plant has been transformed from the scene of a major disaster into a sprawling building site. But work on removing the melted fuel – something no nuclear operator has ever attempted – has barely begun. All that Tepco knows for certain – although it was slow to admit it – is that fuel in three reactors melted down after the tsunami knocked out the plant’s cooling system on 11 March 2011. Of greatest concern, though, is reactor 1, where the fuel may have burned through the pressure vessel, fallen to the bottom of the containment vessel and into the concrete pedestal below – perhaps even outside it – according to a report by the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning. Reactors 2 and 3 are thought to have suffered partial meltdowns. Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, said the decommissioning schedule was an attempt to convince the public that Japan was recovering from a major nuclear disaster. “The idea that fuel debris removal will begin in 2021 is not realistic – it’s just not going to happen,” he said. “The roadmap is based on political considerations, not technical ones.
Guardian 11th March 2016 read more »
Five years on from the devastating earthquake and tsunami, an area 12 miles around the Fukushima nuclear plant remains a dead zone, abandoned and uninhabited. However, a few miles to the south the authorities declared that Naraha, another town in the evacuation area, is now safe and everyone should come back. Meanwhile, in other areas, people are still trying to rebuild their shattered lives. The Telegraph’s photographer Julian Simmonds went to investigate.
Telegraph 10th March 2016 read more »
Professor Geraldine Thomas of Imperial College, London. She is one of Britain’s leading researchers on the effects of radiation on the human body. She visits Japan several times a years to advise the government. Gerry has become a passionate advocate of the right of people around the Fukushima plant to return to their homes. Walking with me through the streets of Okuma, Professor Thomas eschews the government-provided safety suit and mask as entirely unnecessary. “People have to feel safe to come back,” she says. “Many will now not want to come back because they’ve made a life elsewhere. But in terms of radiation, the amount we are getting now is very small, and if you were inside a building you’d be getting even less than standing in the open air.”
BBC 10th March 2016 read more »
Plutonium from reactor waste has been separated by the European nuclear giants (at one time BNFL and still AREVA) and AREVA is fabricating MOX fuel for use in the Japanese reactors as they restart. This pro-nuclear notion is profoundly disturbed thinking. MOX was in Fukushima Daiichi Unit-3 (only a small fraction, probably less than 5%). There is still expert debate about the difference between the explosions at Units 1, 2 and 3, but Arnie Gundersen has said many times there was a detonation shockwave at Unit 3, that hydrogen cannot cause that, and the MOX fuel may have had a role in what happened there.
Green World 10th March 2016 read more »
The nuclear disaster at Fukushima has also caused a great deal of human suffering, much of which will continue to unfold in the years to come. Around 150,000 people living nearby the damaged reactors were evacuated because of the threat of radioactivity. This in itself has caused mental strain and evacuation-related deaths, according to reports. Accounts of the physical impact caused by the released radiation vary. A UN report released in 2013 says that there were no radiation-related deaths among the workers and public in the surroundings following the disasters, and there is not expected to be any increase in radiation-caused illnesses. A report by Greenpeace released this month, however, says that the impact of Fukushima will continue to impact nearby ecosystems for centuries. While this reawakening of the public’s fear of nuclear power may alone not have been enough to throw the nuclear renaissance back into the dark ages, economic considerations delivered an additional blow. Peter Bradford a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and now an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, tells Carbon Brief:: “In the US, the 31 new reactor applications filed at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the height of renaissance euphoria (2008-09) had dwindled by two-thirds before Fukushima and is now down to four actually being built. The EPR [European Pressurized Reactor] fiascoes in Finland and France owed nothing to Fukushima. Hinkley was not swayed by Fukushima and never made economic or energy policy sense. It is teetering now because of cost and financial concerns entirely unrelated to the events in Japan.”
Carbon Brief 10th March 2016 read more »
The Anglican Church in Japan is calling for all nuclear power plants in the country to be decommissioned as the world marks five years since the Fukushima disaster.
Christian Radio 11th March 2016 read more »
Exactly five years after the Fukushima nuclear power station disaster, robots sent into the radioactive site to repair reactors are “dying.” Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), which owns the power station and is responsible for decommissioning the site, says that as soon as the specially-built robots get close to the damaged reactors, the radiation destroys their circuitry.
IB Times 10th March 2016 read more »
Mirror 10th March 2016 read more »
Daily Mail 10th March 2016 read more »
Opposition surrounding Fukushima have put an end to plans by a group of individuals in Japan who were hoping to turn the Daiichi nuclear power plant into a tourist destination. The plan had been for ordinary people to visit Daiichi nuclear site without wearing radioactive protective suits by 2036 and had been in an early stage of planning. Members of the group promoting what some have called “dark tourism” come from various backgrounds including business, journalism, architecture and sociology.
IB Times 10th March 2016 read more »
Plans to force energy suppliers to cut bills for 20 million households were abandoned yesterday despite figures showing that customers were overcharged £2.5 billion last year. The competition watchdog faced fierce criticism for capitulating to the lobbying of the so-called Big Six suppliers by dropping proposals to cap prices for households on standard tariffs. Instead of a cut in bills, energy customers face a rise in junk mail under the watchdog’s new plan to allow suppliers to access the contact details of households that have stayed on a rival’s standard tariff for more than three years. Shares in energy suppliers rose in value as the Competition and Markets Authority unveiled its final recommendations to increase competition following a two-year investigation.
Times 11th March 2016 read more »
Households could be “inundated” with unsolicited sales pitches from energy providers after the industry watchdog proposed forcing companies to open up their databases to rival suppliers.
Independent 10th March 2016 read more »
Guardian 10th March 2016 read more »
Catherine Mitchell: The CMA has announced its Energy Market Investigation Summary of Provisional Decision on Remedies. The full version will be published shortly. Overall, it is a mixed bag – quite a few good things; some bad things. However, the CMA, by virtue of its Duties, has to investigate the energy market within the dimension of competition, and to this extent its remit is bound to be too narrow to make meaningful recommendations to meet the energy challenges facing GB. The challenges facing energy systems around the world, including GB, cannot be resolved by Business As Usual governance solutions. These energy system challenges broadly fall in: the impacts and opportunities of new technologies (whether supply, demand or operation); flat or falling demand; infrastructural needs (to be paid for by the flat or falling demand); decarbonisation requirements; and affordability concerns. This requires a ‘new’ governance framework to enable solutions. BAU governance simply will not meet those challenges, as so clearly stated by Audrey Zibelman, Chair of the NY REV Public Service Commission (the NY State equivalent of Ofgem).
IGov 10th March 2016 read more »
Energy Policy – Scotland
Dr Sam Gardner is head of policy at WWF Scotland: while Scotland has made great strides in renewable electricity there remains much we can learn from others who have shown leadership on heating, transport and energy efficiency. For example, in Norway, the introduction of legislation to support district heating has shown a 150 per cent increase in the installed capacity for district heating over the last 10 years. This has helped make it possible for the city of Drammen to create a district heating network that supplies several thousand homes and businesses with clean, affordable heat. This system didn’t rely on Scandinavian engineering but the expertise of Glasgow-based Star Renewables; Norway simply provided the right environment. Scotland must do the same if it wants to attract the same level of investment. A Warm Homes Act would bring clean and affordable warmth to households and businesses, by supporting the growth of district heating and renewable heat, while improving the energy efficiency of our buildings. It would reduce heat demand, cut fuel bills and create jobs in a new district heat ing industry. By making the improvement of energy efficiency a long-term national infrastructure project, no one in Scotland would have to live in a hard to heat, draughty home by 2025. Public investment in energy efficiency could create up to 9,000 new jobs around every part of Scotland, and ensure 1.25million homes in Scotland will be made warm, affordable to heat, and lower carbon. With elections on May 5, all parties should be laying out their plans to grasp the opportunities of a clean energy transition and, as Ms Figueres urges, ensure we “create a reality as transformational as our vision”.
Herald 11th March 2016 http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/14336603.Agenda__We_must_make_the_improvement_of_energy_efficiency_a_long_term_national_infrastructure_project/
German utility company E.ON said Thursday a key policy issue in Germany remains unresolved, with a huge question still unanswered: How will the country organize and fund its nuclear shutdown move?, Kallanish Energy learns. Company CEO Johannes Teyssen explained the group’s three remaining nuclear power plants will be operated by German electricity company PreussenElektra until the end of their lifetimes, “with a high degree of reliability and largely independently.” PreussenElektra will also be responsible for dismantling the plants and disposing of their nuclear waste. However, the business will continue to affect E.ON’s earnings. “That’s why the outcome of the political process is so important,” Teyssen said. “As far as I can tell, the commission appointed to make recommendations for the funding of the phaseout of nuclear energy has done its work in a constructive atmosphere. At the end of February, however, it decided a number of primarily technical issues still need to be resolved,” the CEO said. The commission’s work is now expected to continue through the end of April, according to E.ON, who said it will continue playing a constructive role in the process.
Kallanish Energy 11th March 2016 read more »
RWE, Germany’s second-biggest utility, is facing open rebellion from key shareholders over its decision last month to scrap its dividend – a move that has blown a gaping hole in the finances of towns already struggling to cope with Germany’s refugee crisis. Municipal shareholders, who own around 24 per cent of RWE’s stock, have hinted that they might retaliate by refusing to extend local electricity and gas network licences with the company, many of which expire by the end of the year, or by delivering a no-confidence vote in management at the annual meeting next month. The stand-off comes as RWE struggles to cope with massive changes in Germany’s energy landscape that are threatening the survival of its utilities. The country’s radical shift to solar and wind energy and exit from nuclear power have badly damaged RWE and Eon, its rival, by squeezing margins in conventional coal and gas-fired power generation and sending wholesale electricity prices into a tailspin.
FT 10th March 2016 read more »
The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change (ECC) Committee has announced an inquiry into the 2020 renewable heat and transport targets. While progress towards the share of renewable electricity is on track, concerns have been raised regarding progress in renewable heat and transport. The Committee on Climate Change has warned that the Government’s ambitions may no longer be achievable and moreover, some research has suggested that renewable transport fuels may cause more carbon emissions than they save. The Committee hopes to explore the main challenges with, and potential solutions to, meeting the UK’s 2020 renewable energy targets for heat and transport. They believe that progress in the heat and transport sectors will be crucial to meeting the UK’s own long-term decarbonisation targets as set out in the Climate Change Act.
Scottish Energy News 11th March 2016 read more »
Among the papers for the City Council meeting this week is a progress report on setting up an Edinburgh ESCO (Energy Services Company). As the councillor who first proposed an ESCO, way back in 2011, I’m pleased that things are moving on, although also slightly impatient for the organisation to get its hands on actual projects.
Edinburgh Greens 9th March 2016 read more »